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Photos of our vessels can be found on Flickr Scottish Maritime Museum


Built in 1941 by Carrier Engineering of Wembley for the Air Ministry, Air-Sea Rescue Craft 10 is a rare surviving example of a type of craft used in British Waters in WWII.

Also known as “Cuckoos” or “Ocean Hostels”, ASRs had no engines and were moored at strategic intervals along bomber routes to occupied Europe.

Their role was to provide emergency shelter to crews of downed aircraft, and contained vital equipment and supplies such as preserved meat and vegetables, tea, coffee, rum, drinking water, toiletries, blankets, books and playing cards and bunks for 6 men, as well as radio equipment allowing them to call for assistance.

ASR vessels were constructed of welded steel, with their hulls brightly painted in red and yellow to make them easy to spot, and were designed to be easily boarded.

Westward of Clynder Tender

This 2.7 metre clinker built sailing dinghy was built in 1960 by McGruer Boatbuilders at the yard in Clynder on the Gareloch.

Built as a tender for the cruising and racing yacht Westward of Clynder, this small dinghy would have been used for running between the shore and the 44ft parent yacht.

Westward of Clynder was the third of four similar yawls (a type of two masted sailing craft) to be built at the same time at the yard.

A beautiful boat built entirely of teak, Westward of Clynder originally belonged to AJ Barr, the grandson of Charlie Barr, who set a record for crossing the Atlantic in 12 days and 4 hours in the 1905 Kaiser Cup – a record that stood for almost 100 years.


Wanderer is an ingenious life-saving vessel from WWII – the parachuted airborne lifeboat.

A rare example of the Mark II Parachuted Airborne Lifeboat, this vessel also illustrates the techniques of a pre-war racing dinghy.

It was invented by English boat designer Uffa Fox. This type of wooden lifeboat was modelled on the lines of a pre-war racing dinghy and would have been carried underneath aircraft to be dropped by parachute into the sea, as close to possible to airmen who had been forced to ditch their planes, to try and prevent German capture.

These self-righting and self-bailing boats were well-equipped with all the survival kit the airmen needed. They even had a supply of cigarettes and rum to lift the spirits of the airmen and each boat had a big arrow painted on it to show where the bow was, for those unfamiliar with the layout of a boat. The Uffa Fox airborne lifeboat was also equipped with sails, motor engines, radio equipment, food rations and spare clothing.

After the war this boat was sold from Leuchars Aerodrome on the east coast to a St Andrews woman who converted it into a sailing yacht. It is one of only 500 built and is estimated that these lifeboats saved over 600 lives in total. They were used all over the world, including the North Sea, Bay of Biscay, Norway and the Pacific.

A rare example of the Mark II Parachuted Airborne Lifeboat, this vessel also illustrates the techniques of a pre-war racing dinghy.


Venus is a traditional Shetland double-ended rowing and sailing boat known as a Fourareen.

Built on the remote and treeless island of Foula in 1898, this 18ft vessel was made from pieces of driftwood, with the crofter who built it using boat-building techniques that had been passed down from generation to generation, similar to those used by Vikings on their longboats.

Venus would have been used by the crofter to catch fish and collect flotsam and jetsam from the sea.

In the late 1950s the boat was bought and converted into a yacht by the sailor and boat builder Paul Erling Johnson. Some of the more adventurous feats included a cruise around the Nordic coast in gale force winds, being sunk by a passenger coaster in gale force winds, being sunk by a passenger coaster in Cornwall and a transatlantic voyage to America in 1964.


Built in 1884, Vagrant is a 23ft ‘plank on edge’ racing cutter yacht built to an early design by yacht builder William Fife III, at the Marquess of Ailsa’s Culzean Ship and Boatbuilding Co. yard at Maidens, Ayrshire. Vagrant is thought to be the oldest surviving Clyde-built racing yacht.

Built for Thomas Trocke, an Irishman who already owned a Fife-built yacht named ‘Rival’. Trocke wanted to compete in a new class of vessel racing  – small gaff-rigged waterline cutters. His order was executed in basic materials – pitch pine and yellow pine, muntz metal spikes, and an inexpensive iron keel. He raced fairly successfully in Vagrant, winning £12 in prize money in 1884 and almost £20 in 1885.

The popularity of Vagrant’s class in racing was short-lived and by 1888 Vagrant was obsolete. It was then passed between different owners before being purchased by an individual at the end of WWI who maintained it until his death in 1970.

Vagrant was found in a boatyard in Dun Laoghaire in Country Dublin in 1979 and was restored in County Wicklow, after which it took part in several races for traditional yachts.

Acquired by the Scottish Maritime Museum in 1984 Vagrant soon became a popular exhibit, a very fine example of this rare type of plank on edge yacht by Fife.

SY Carola

Possibly the oldest seagoing steam yacht in the world, SY Carola was built in 1898 by Scott & Sons of Bowling at their shipyard on the north banks of the River Clyde. At 70ft in length, Carola is of steel construction with teak decking and deckhouse, and now has two masts. The engine was a two cylinder compound steam engine by Ross and Duncan (1898)

Built for personal use by the shipbuilder’s family, Carola was used as a yacht during the summer months, sailing around the Firth of Clyde and Western Isles on the west coast of Scotland, and was also used by the family to travel to their holiday home at Colintraive on the Cowal Peninsula, Argyll.

When not being used for pleasure by the family, Carola would sometimes take groups of senior yard staff on Clyde cruises and in winter would have served as a tender and tug at the shipyard.

Carola was owned by the Scott family for many years, although ownership of the vessel was passed to the company in the late 1950s.

By 1964 it was in a semi-derelict state and was sold to a private owner, before being sold on again in 1970 to an owner in the south of England.

In 1981 Carola was purchased by a Sussex firm and used for corporate hospitality, then passed on to another Sussex firm in 1990 before becoming part of the Scottish Maritime Museum’s collection in 1994 when a crew of volunteers from the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service Association brought it up on the long voyage to Irvine.  Carola is now on the National Register of Historic Vessels of the United Kingdom.

MV Spartan

Built in 1942 by J. Hay & Sons, Kirkintilloch, Spartan the only surviving Scottish-built ‘puffer’, a type of steam-powered cargo vessel first built in the 1850s for use on the Clyde and Forth Canal, Now on the Designated List of the National Historic Ships Committee, Spartan was the first vessel in the museum’s collection when it was established in 1983.

The term ‘puffer’ came from the characteristic puffs of steam – and accompanying sound – from the early single-stroke steam engines. The name stuck despite only the earliest examples of this type used this engine.

Sea-going puffers were being built by the 1870s, supplying an essential link to the maritime communities of Scotland. Carrying all manner of cargoes, they traded mainly in the Firth of Clyde and the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Their flat-bottomed hulls mean puffers were able to beach and unload their cargoes at low tide, not relying on piers.

Spartan has been much altered since original construction, built as a waterways puffer with riveted steel plating and pitch-pine deck. At a length of 66ft Spartan was the longest a canal dock would allow.

At the outbreak of WWII the Ministry of War Transport required a fleet of small cargo boats, for servicing Naval ships and installations on Scotland’s west coast. Rather than designing a new vessel type, it was decided that the 66ft Clyde puffer type made an ideal model for the basis of a fleet.

A large number of these ‘Victualling Inshore Craft’ – known as the VIC series – were built, most of them constructed south of the border. Spartan, or VIC 18 as it was known, was an exception.

VIC 18 remained in Naval service until 1946 when it was laid up.  Spartan was reacquired by Hay’s in 1946 and converted to join there fleet of puffers, before being re-registered as ‘Spartan’.

Spartan’s steam engine was replaced by a Scania diesel in 1961, and remained in use as a cargo vessel until 1980. Eventually it was handed over the West of Scotland Boat Museum Association (the precursor of the Scottish Maritime Museum) in 1982.

With growing competition from subsidised road haulage and ferry services, and the islands using less coal, operators began to go out of business and by the mid 1990s the puffer trade was no more.


Seamew is a unique surviving Scottish example of a yard tender – a boat used to carry passengers and materials out to vessels in shipyards.

Built around 1904-1908, the level of craftsmanship suggest that it was designed and built by yacht firm William Fife & Sons of Fairlie for use in their own yard, and their successors the Fairlie Yacht Slip Company.

Fife’s yard was renowned for building racing yachts, such as Shamrock (1899) and Shamrock II (1903), both of which competed for the Americas Cup.

Clinker-built with overlapping mahogany planking on elm frames, and held together with brass clenched nails, this 25ft vessel still has some original Fife fittings. Originally a rowing boat, it is now fitted with a Thornycroft ‘Handy Billy’ engine dating from around 1939.


Built in 1962 by J&J White of Cowes, Isle of White, RNLB TGB is a 47ft twin screw motor lifeboat built to carry up to 95 people. Despite being strong vessels, Watson-class boats like TGB were not designed to self-right when capsized, and this ultimately led to its involvement in one of the worst tragedies in the history of the lifeboat service.

Serving the treacherous waters of the Pentland Firth, TGB was stationed at Longhope in the Orkneys and was launched 34 times, rescuing 24 people. However on 17th March 1969, TGB was called to assist a Liberian freighter which had found itself in trouble on the east side of Orkney. Before TGB reached the freighter, the crew of the freighter had already run aground and the crew disembarked for dry land, and contact with TGB was lost in the storm.

At first daylight the next day aircraft began the search for RNLB TGB which was located that afternoon. Overturned by 100ft high waves TGB had been unable to right itself and all eight crewmembers had been lost, three from one family.

RNLI TGB was salvaged and refurbished and continued to save lives in Ireland, before retiring from service in 1979, and was loaned to the Scottish Maritime Museum in the late 1980s.


The exact date and place of construction are unknown, as are the builder and original owner. However, we do know that the iron-hulled steamship Rifle was bought on the Clyde in the 1860s by the then Cameron of Locheil.

Rifle was in general service on Loch Arkaig, ferrying goods, passengers and mail between isolated dwellings around the loch and linking them with Clunes and Achnacarry. Queen Victoria travelled on-board in 1873, an outing which is recorded in her diary accounts.

Rifle continued in this service until 1938 or 1939 when it was to be broken up. The engine was removed but sank before it could be broken up. During WWII the wreck blocked the pier and so it was blasted or pulled into deeper water, which is why Rifle is missing its bow.

In the mid-1980s the surviving section of hull was located and was acquired by the Scottish Maritime Museum in 1990,

Queen Mab

In fairy folklore, Queen Mab was the tiny fairy who visited people when they were asleep, fulfilling their wishes via their dreams. Perhaps the owners of this little yacht were fulfilling a dream of their own when they commissioned a half scale, 6-metre yacht!

Queen Mab’s unusual size has made it an object of interest, with historians suggesting that it was a prototype of the 6-metre yachts which became famous as racing vessels in the 20th century.

The presence of a wheatsheaf carving on the bow also led some to believe that it might have been built by renowned yacht builders William Fife & Son, but modern sources disagree. The real identity of the builder is a mystery, but Mab’s unusual toy-like size continues to fascinate and intrigue.

MV Kyles

MV Kyles is the oldest Clydebuilt vessel still afloat in the UK. Kyles has more than two dozen owners and retained its original name throughout the whole of its working life. Launched in 1872 by John Fullerton and Co. of Paisley, Kyles was built for Glasgow owners at the Merksworth yard and was destined for the coasting trade.

Kyles was a basic steam-engined cargo coaster, typical of those built by the smaller yards of the Clyde, originally with an iron and steel hull, much of which is in original condition, and a steel deck. Most of the upper works date from major restorations in 1945 and 1998.

Coastal traders provided an essential service before land transport became dominant and there was no standard design of cargo coaster, with ships often being modified to suit a specific role. Kyles is an excellent example of this despite having no spectacular history, the changes undergone as many owners have adapted to the changing demands of the coasting trade make Kyles a fascinating vessel.

The original owner of Kyles was Stuart Manford of Glasgow, and was originally used as a tender for the fishing fleet, collecting the catch from the Clyde fishing boats and transporting the fish to railheads on the coast. A succession of owners followed, the Kyles carrying heavy and general cargoes on short coastal voyages in Scotland, Newcastle upon Tyne and the South Wales area. The port of registry remained Glasgow until 1900 when it was registered at Hull, and the first major changes in its structure came in 1921 when it was converted to work as a sand dredger in the Bristol Channel.

A familiar sight to many in this area, a letter from a Mr L G Gardiner in Ships Monthly magazine recounted his fond memories of watching Kyles as a child in the 1920s as it pumped its sand cargo in the channel. He recalled that this was before the bow and stern were built up, adding that “When she was pumping she was low in the water and looked more like a submarine. In fact she became a bit of a joke with the sailors on the other dredgers because they said as long as you could see steam rising from the sand pump engine or an odd beer bottle thrown over the side, the little Kyles was still afloat”.

By the start of WWII, Kyles was out of service and de-registered.  Surveyed in 1942 while laid up on the Glamorganshire canal and found to be in a poor condition, in 1944 Kyles was sold on by a salvage contractor to Ivor P Langford, a ship owner and repairer based near Gloucester, who repaired and removed the dredging equipment in order to return it to a cargo role. Kyles was re-registered at Gloucester and worked in the Bristol Channel for a number of years before being converted from steam to a diesel engine in 1953. In 1960 Kyles was structurally altered again, this time to enable function as a sludge tanker for dumping industrial waste in the Bristol Channel.  Later downgraded to a storage hulk for waste, Kyles continued in this role until 1974.

Despite the owner’s tradition of naming his boats after female members of the family the name Kyles was kept out of respect for a long and varied history  and as the vessel was a favourite of Mr Langford his family was keen to see it preserved once its working days were over. An offer was accepted from Captain Peter M Herbert of Bude, who had himself a long career in the coasting trade, and Kyles became a much loved vessel in the Bude area.

When the West of Scotland Boast Museum Association – precursor to the Scottish Maritime Museum – was formed in the early 1980s, Mr Herbert offered to sell Kyles to the group, and in 1984 the Scottish Maritime Museum became the 24th registered owner. Kyles was re-registered in Glasgow, 112 years after he name first appeared in the records.

Funding for a full restoration of the vessel became available in 1996, and it was decided to was to take Kyles back to the 1953 refit when it was changed from steam to diesel power. Work began in 1997 to strip out the sludge tanks, reinstate the original hatch and hatch cover, and replicate the mast and derrick. The wheel house had been removed in the 1970s and this was replicated with help from old photographs of the vessel.

Recognised as one of Britain’s most important historic vessels, Kyles in included in the Designated vessels list of the National Historic Ships Committee.

Mary Chalmers

Mary Chalmers is a rare surviving example of an open-water recreational rowing skiff, known as a jolly boat.

Mary Chalmers was built in 1953 by McAllister of Dumbarton, who also build collapsible lifeboats for Titanic, and originally belonged to the Ladyburn Trades Amateur Rowing Club in Greenock.

Travelling by boat had been a necessary form of transport for those living in waterside communities, but as other forms of transport developed, people started to take to the water for fun and rowing clubs were established. Jolly boats were fast, shallow draft racing gigs, and Mary Chalmers was one of the last of the class to be built. It was named after the daughter of Jock Chalmers, who had been a foreman plater in Caird’s yard in Greenock.

Leisure and industry were closely linked on the Clyde, with teams of sportsmen from various trades competing to see who was best.

Maid of the Loch Lifeboat

This vessel belonged to the last British-built paddle steamer – The Maid of the Loch. This riveted aluminium ship’s lifeboat came to the Scottish Maritime Museum from the Loch Lomond Steam Ship Co, owners of the Maid, and is constructed from light aluminium instead of steel, making it lighter and more stable. If you look at the bow you can see the number of passengers it can hold.

In 1953 the British Transport Commission had A&J Inglis for Glasgow build them a new vessel for the Loch Lomond passenger service. Maid of the Loch was built, becoming the largest inland waterway vessel in Britain. It became the 20th passenger vessel to sail the historic route since 1818.

In 2004 the Maid officially became a historic ship on the UK Designated Vessels List, and is now open to the public at Balloch pier.

Loch Broom Post Boat

This post boat is a small, clinker built sailing vessel used for delivery of mail to the remote community on Loch Broom, Wester Ross. Its date of construction is unknown.  It was acquired by the West of Scotland Boat Museum Association in 1983 by donation from Mr W Bailiff, before being transferred to the Scottish Maritime Heritage Association in 1985. It has been loan to the Scottish Maritime Museum since 1987.

Lady Guilford


Jane Anne

Golden Orfe Tender

TB Garnock

Dr. Tiller’s Dinghy

This modest little boat was designed and built by G&A Waddell of Dunoon in 1952. A clinker-built (overlapping plank) sailing dinghy, it is ideal for cruising, which allows owners to make the most of their leisure time on the water. When not in use they could be easily stored in a garage or a shed. Although 60ft luxury yachts are the preserve of the wealthy, there are many sailors who feel more at home in a dinghy like this.


A clinker-built ship’s lifeboat, Dolphin was designed to carry 20 people. It is unknown when it was built, but this type of wooden lifeboat was popular due to its strength and size.

Following the sinking of RMS Titanic in 1912, shipping had to take more responsibility for the safety of their passengers (the Titanic held 3,300 passengers but only 20 lifeboats).
After the World Wars, lifeboats became lighter and more compact as designers experimented with rubber and inflatables.

Dolphin came to the Scottish Maritime Museum from the Montrose branch of the Sea Cadets.


This small sailing dinghy was built in a Glasgow townhouse bedroom in 1896 by brothers William and Walter Bergius. Walter went on to found the firm that developed the Kelvin marine engine.

The brothers were able to suspend a tent over the boom and so sleep out in the boat, making it perfect for weekend cruises around Scotland.

Dodo was presented to the Scottish Maritime Museum by the Bergius family.

Bass Conqueror

In 1979 Kenneth Kerr’s first attempt to row 2100 miles across the Atlantic ended after 58 days when his vessel, the 13ft dinghy Bass Conqueror, was capsized. Finding his transmitter and inflatable lift-raft nearby, his distress signal was picked up by a British Airways Concorde en-route to New York. The coastguards were alerted and a spotter aircraft passed on his position to a German carrier ship which detoured to his rescue. Five months later Bass Conqueror was found washed up on the Irish coast.

An Orkney Spinner flat-bottomed rowing boat, Bass Conqueror was specially fitted out for his first attempt in 1979 by a boat builder in Kenneth’s home town of Port Seaton, East Lothian, and named after a product brewed by sponsor Tennent’s.

May 21st 1980, Kenneth Kerr began his second attempt to row across the Atlantic. On August 13th he was spotted 500 miles off the coast of Ireland by a cargo ship, who gave him food and water. His last radio transmission was received on October 25th, but Kenneth was never seen or heard from again.

Bass Conqueror was recovered by a Norwegian rescue team near Stavanger on January 26th 1981.

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